was founded in 1829, and has called two different locations home since then. It was dedicated in July of 1829, after being built in only 4 months.
The community in this rural section of Town felt they had to travel to far to worship, and that they and their neighbors were missing a centralizing aspect of community life. And so 45 members of the , (Old First Church), decided that they would join together and build their own church for worship.
The website for the church tells us: “It started with 45 charter members and it's first Pastor was the Rev. Charles Webster. The Church grow to 101 members by it’s first anniversary in 1830.” At this time, the church was located at the corner of Sweet Hollow and Old Country Roads.
Zophar Ketcham, 1746-1837, wrote a poem about the organization of the church, which was recorded by Conklin Baylis, 1819-1874, in 1833 in a blank book. As Romanah Sammis explains in Huntington- Babylon Town History, this poem, “give[s] us certain facts concerning the church: ‘The men together did combine’ and it was raised on May 9.
On the twenty-fifth, Reverend Goldsmith preached to the people and the church organization took place. On July 16, the building was dedicated, a Reverend Crane addressing the people.” (To read the text of the full poem, 30 stanzas, see the scanned copy in the pictures section.) If not for the forward thinking of Conklin Baylis, the poem may have been forever lost to history, and with it the story of the church’s founding.
Sweet Hollow Presbyterian Church celebrated their centennial in 1929. To mark the occasion, the Long-Islander, published a long story on the church on July 26, 1929. They described the anniversary by saying, “the little country church still left standing marks the passing of an epoch in rural life in which small communities were becoming sufficient unto themselves, and in perfecting that self-sufficiency were erecting their own public buildings.”
The article goes on to explain that over the course of the 100 years since the Church’s founding, the population began to shift away from Sweet Hollow, and, “a foreign born population bought up the farms and moved into them.”
As such, many different faiths now lived in the area, and the membership, once at 300, had dwindled back to fifty or so. Therefore, in the midst of their 100-year anniversary celebration, there was also fear that the church had grown obsolete.
It is of no surprise then to learn that on March 16, 1930 the church closed its doors. At the time it closed the doors, there were only 18 members, and the building was in disrepair. Then, according to the church’s website, “In 1944 the Church was opened for a well attended funeral of Edward Baylis, a long time member and Elder of the old Church. This event renewed interest in reopening the Church…”
With this a great effort began to revive Sunday services, and start to form a new membership of the church. The church experienced what can only be described as a “rebirth.” Sunday worship, and the publishing of weekly bulletins, began again in December of 1947, with Reverend Charles A. Vertanes as minister. In addition, Mrs. Arnold F. Edwards, began running Sunday School there in 1944. (Aug. 12, 1948, Long-Islander)
On Aug. 12, 1948 the Long-Islander reported that: “A few weeks ago the old Presbyterian Church of Sweet Hollow, now known as Melville Church, was officially disbanded by the Presbytery.”
The article goes to explain though, that it was disbanded, “only that it might be reorganized next September; for last week Floyd Baylis and Carlton J. Baylis, present holders, signed an application to the Supreme Court requesting that the property be taken over by the Presbytery.” On the first weekend of October 1948, a service was held at the Church to mark it’s official reentering into the fellowship of Christian Churches of the world.
Membership in the church continued to grow, and by June 10, 1954, the Long-Islander announced that, “$8,500,00 as their goal in their plans to renovate the old parsonage for Church School use and to greatly increase their Christian Education program…”
By Dec. 5, 1957, a 7-acre plot of land had been purchased at Sweet Hollow and Gwynne Roads, and plans for the construction of a new educational building, sanctuary, manse, and parking facilities had been drawn up. The original church would be moved to the site and become the chapel, according to the Long-Islander from that day.
Ground was broken in September of 1959 on an education building for the Church’s Sunday school, which would accommodate 300 pupils. The building also contained a stage, a fellowship hall, a kitchen, a library, and a study for the Pastor. The building was dedicated on June 3, 1960 at 3 p.m., according to an initiation to the event in the files of the Town Historian’s Office.
The original church was located on a very small piece of property, and the 7-acre purchase of land at the location of the new education building, only a mile from the original church, was supposed to solve this issue of future expansion.
Then in a February 24, 1977 letter, to the Suffolk County Council on Environmental Quality, Town Historian Rufus Langhans explains: “The County of Suffolk then bought all the property around this new structure for West Hills County Park and the Christian Education building was permanently isolated from its parishioners. Ultimately, the county acquired this property form the church.”
The letter goes on to explain that, “the Church purchased nine acre to the west of the present church building on Old Country Road… it is planned to move the present structure to this nine acre plot and attach it to an existing building on the site and build a further addition.”
The property had a little house on it, the Church was attached to one side of the house and a new Education Building was built and attached to the other side. This is how the Church stands today.
But through its closing and reopening, and then its search for a permanent home, the spirit of those original founders in 1829 remained alive. Today the Church is a local home of worship and a community center, fulfilling their vision.